Thursday, September 04, 2008

Get Your Torches and Pitchforks

According to their website, The Metro Hotel in Woking "is a highly successful budget hotel that has been open for 4 years and can boast a year round occupancy in excess of 85%".

I have a feeling that they will have less to boast about next year after they refused entry to an injured British Army Corporal visiting an injured colleague (and didn't get away with it).

I'd love to have been a fly-on-the-wall today as the management tarred-and-feathered the receptionist concerned and begged for mercy under an onslaught of hate mail, cancelled bookings, abusive phone calls, tabloid snappers and purple-faced politicians. For a good and rather amusing cross-section of reaction, see the unreliably brilliant ARRS (ARmy Rumour Service).

I hope this incident will convince workers in the leisure industry that discriminating against soldiers is a career-limiting decision.

Corporal Stringer is now back in Helmand Province doing a nasty job that I'm SO glad I'm not doing. I wonder how much the Receptionist would fancy a spell of facing-off to the Taliban ?

Next time the Corporal comes home, here's hoping the country will have changed ever so slightly for the better and he won't be in any danger of having to spend the night in his car.

Update 1 - later that day : The hotel are being flamed to a crisp on blogs and news sites across the planet. The Armed Forces and Defence ministers have written stiffly worded letters. The owners of the hotel, American Amusements, are not answering their phones and are hopefully cowering behind the reception desk wanting their collective mummies. Every conceivable travel agency website has acquired several unflattering reviews of the hotel today. The Sun are pestering Michael Appleton, a director, "at his £2million home".

Update 2 - the morning after : I didn't believe that a jobsworth receptionist would just make up such a policy on the spot. They hadn't - here's the BBC coverage of a the response received to letter written by the soldier's mum's MP, Hywel Williams :-

A manager in the letter said the hotel had in recent months "experienced some rather serious incidents" resulting from the stay of personnel from a local barracks and staff had been requested to be "cautious" in taking future bookings from the armed forces.

Managers were asked to assess cases.

"In almost every case the booking is accepted. This process does not appear to have happened in this case, for which I sincerely apologise. We also fully recognise and appreciate the tremendous courage and sacrifices made by member of our armed services".

Just how much damage did they think one tired squaddie with a broken wrist was going to do to their hotel ? I still want heads on sticks.

Update 3 : The evening after : a couple of hundred people visited Radio Free Stan thanks to the above article - wish I had something to sell to all these good people.

It's interesting to see on other blogs how in their versions of the story, Corporal Stringer was going to a funeral. According to all the sources I trust, the mate he was visiting was alive but recovering from wounds (extent unknown). I guess somewhere along the way, someone sexed the story up for additional impact. Shame : it's a strong enough story without turning it into an urban myth.

Another common trick I saw in other blogs was to imply that the hotel "hated the military". I really can't see the evidence for this. There is definitely evidence of stupidity, lack of tact and casual discrimination - but hate seems unlikely.

And I don't condone the threats that have been made against the hotel staff - I think this battle has already been won - it's not good form to bayonet the survivors.

Ranger Justin James Cupples died in an explosion near Sangin in Helmand Province while this hotel nonsense was going on bringing the total of British casualties in Afghanistan to 117. Soldiers have given so much - it's surely not out of line to treat them well when they get home ?

1 comment:

Kenny said...

I'm glad you picked up on this. I listened to an interview with Corporal Stringer's mother on the wireless on the way into work yesterday morning and was livid about the whole thing. I vowed that I would vent for England on the subject later in the day but was too dashed busy to do a trademark Kenny "going off on one". By the time I did have time, you'd already done it more rational justice than I could.

I'm glad they are being fisked beyond all measure. How a corporation can personalise their own political views and expect to get away with it beggars belief. I'm afraid it is all too familiar behavior from the hypocritical classes.